After several weeks of typical April weather (rain , more rain & a hose pipe ban!!) the rugby gods decided it was time to shine on the players. Sunday morning broke with fantastic blue skies and an almost spring like feel!
The Marlow teams were hosted in a last minute end of season fixture by Bicester RFC. Given Bicester have 26 players it was agreed to play 20min x 3 split half A's & half B's
The Marlow teams were unfortunately decimated by several key players with SOR, alternative sporting fixtures & family engagements.
The first session was an A team game & saw an A team starting line up short of 4 key forwards & 4 key backs.
This was evident in the way the team played in the first ten minutes lacking structure and focus. This was most noticeable at the breakdown where Bicester were given almost free reign to control any ball at the ruck. This lack of pressure saw Bicester run the ball into space on multiple occasions with 2 or 3 man overlaps and if it had not been for some tremendous tackles by Oscar Williams, James Howie, Miles Williamson & Lachlan Ewing Bicester could have be a lot more than 0 - 12 up after 10 minutes.
Finally the fire in the bellies emerged and Marlow realised they were being beaten by a team that really they should have been all over. There was a noticeable change in the next 10 minutes with Marlow sticking to the game plan using organised & repeated repeated forward attacks going one way marshalled by Ed Hayward to suck in defence & then run it wide the opposite way stretching the defence. Inevitably spaces opened up and Lachlan scythed through for a fantastic try making it 7 - 12 after an easy conversion for Ed Hayward. Despite this resurgence again a slip in concentration saw the Bicester left wing run 50 meters to score resulting in a 7 - 19 deficit at the end of the first A session
The B team took the field against a Bicester A+B squad short of 9 players along with 2 having to cover n the A's. However the extra 20 minutes along with some good preparation by Gary & Peter had got them focussed. The team played with great intensity against a very tough team whose had the wind at their backs. The lads put in tremendous effort and for the first 5 minutes threatened to score on several occasions, a turn over against the run of play saw a break away try by Bicester from inside their own 22 making it 0 - 7. Undeterred the players returned to the fray putting in great effort only on 2 more occasions to turn the ball over at the breakdown , against the run of play, to allow Bicester to whip the ball into space and put another 12 points on the board making it. A fantastically worked move into space and Bicester crossed in the corner for another 5. What was fantastic to see is that the team continued to try their hardest putting in huge effort despite being down on the score board. Whilst the final score ended up 0 - 24 the coaches were particularly impressed by the way the boys applied themselves and several players stood out as making an outstanding effort through out this game most noticeably Matt Rowley , Lewis Thomas & Tom Billingshurst for fantastic defensive tackling and running themselves into the ground, Aiden Moneagle for some great break aways and good tactical thinking under pressure and the 9+10 combination of , Ollle Sears & Jacob Few who led tirelessly.
After a short stop for water the A team took the field, from the kick off it was obvious to everyone that during the 20 minutes the lads had had together in the change room had made a difference. The passion, intensity & aggression was clear from the first scrum after the Bicester kick off did not go 10 yards. A huge scrum , a swift hook and a quick ball from Ed to Matt off to the blindside took the defence by surprise, a savage breakdown on the opposition 22 with the forwards stopping the defence infringing around the sides of the ruck, a quick ball again by Ed to Matt who ran into space drew his man & freed Lachlan to score under the posts 7 - 0 (net 14 - 19). The Marlow side we love & enjoy watching weekend in and out come rain or shine were back. Despite Bicester trying to get into the game Marlow controlled the game perfectly over the next few minutes , defending ferociously and turning ball over at the breakdown. A penalty against Bicester for holding on saw a great clearing kick by Ed. Joel won the line out setting up the backs and again the players stuck to the game plan taking the ball across the field winning quick ball at the breakdown fragmenting the defence, when the ball hit the centres it was Lachlan who had more gaps than the maginot line in front of him to run in for his third try. A cheap shot by two Bicester players on Lachlan after he had scored only served to fire up Marlow even more. A clean take by Oscar at the next kick off saw him charging up field , three fast phases (all going in one direction - at last !) with ball won quickly & Marlow were marching up the field. The forwards hit the rucks with fervour , the backs realigned with speed and the Bicester defence was reeling. In a Dan Cater style move Lachlan cut back inside take a reverse ball from Matt , hit the blind side and smashed through 3 players finally to be cut down 5 meters short, Joel hit the pick & drive like an express train getting stopped just inches short, again quick ball from Ed through Matt's hands to James Howie at centre and it looked like he was in only to be hit by the wing with a cover tackle. James showed immense strength staying on his feet soaking up tacklers and magically slipping the ball to Ben Warren who had the perfect run over the white wash try number 3 in 10 minutes & making it 21 - 0 (net 28- 19). For me I was immensely proud of the maturity shown by the players, who should take great pride in the way they as a team found the focus, self determination & self belief in themselves to turn the match position around.
It was time for the B team to take the field for the final time, Rory was limping heavily but took the field with courage. Once again the boys played with great intensity & passion moving the ball cleanly through the hands. The final 10 minutes was a repeat of the first B team 20 minutes, great attacking, good scrummaging, and loads of hard work. Clearly Bicester did not want to lose the game overall and the full strength opposition made it hard for the B team. Despite this great defence, good scrummaging and competitiveness and the first 4 minutes there was no score. Unfortunately some missed tackles at key times and a generous touch judge and Bicester ran a try making it 0 - 5 (net 0 - 29). It was at this point that Bicester gained in confidence and over the course of the final 6 minutes ran in 3 more tries for 15 points. The final score ending 0 - 20 (net 0 - 44). All players thew them selves into the game with courage & worked relentlessly, again the stand out layers for me were Aiden , Lewis & Matt who never stopped once.
Congratulations to all players many of whom played out of position and alongside players they were not used to. We got off to a slow start but for me the A team walked away winners despite being under strength & the B team despite losing played with a character, passion & self belief , in the end severely undermanned they were beaten by an 'A + B' team and should be proud of the way they played.
Next weekend is the last match of the season and will be a full A & B team match against Ealing and time to play your best for the final time in the U14's , support your mates and end the season on a high